Three Hints for Kids’ Classes

by Helene J. Uchida

1. Don’t Be an Entertainer.

Do not feel you have to be an entertainer; this is a mistake all beginning administrators and teachers make (Monbu Kagakusho, formerly Monbusho, included). Yes, songs and dances are an important part of the curriculum but not the main thrust. If you focus on songs and dance, three problems will result: First, your students will expect to be entertained all the time. Second, you will eventually burn out. Third, you are sending the children the wrong signals about English, namely that it is song and dance. When they meet a non-Japanese are they supposed to try to communicate or break out into a song and dance?

2. Students Should Be Speaking 75% of the Time.

Do create interesting and fun activities and exercises which enable the students to take charge and try to speak English with their peers 75% of the time. They don’t have to be speaking perfect English sentences; they should just be trying to master mini-challenges you give them, like saying their ABCs, counting, reciting the days of the week, doing their self-introductions, asking and responding to each other in simple English couplets (Can you ski? Yes, I can. Do you like snakes? No, I don’t.) Insisting students speak English 75% of the time offers three benefits: one, the students get experience speaking English; two, the students do not depend on the teacher to listen to their English, they use it randomly with anyone in the classroom; three, the teacher gets a chance to observe the students and see them in action.

3. Don’t Explain… Just DO!

Often when I do presentations for teachers I am asked, “If you only speak English in class, how do you explain things to your students?” The answer us easy, I NEVER explain. I just do. What merit is there in explaining? Once you start explaining, you open the door for Japanese. Children are so wonderful in terms of trusting us and just doing what we require of them. Just do your activity and let them take the giant leap in trying to do the same thing.